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Theodore Dreiser

(1871 — 1945)

Theodore Dreiser, a novelist, was born in a poor family, in Indiana. He grew in poverty. For lack of money he did not graduate from Indiana University. Dreiser went into journalism working in Chicago as a correspondent and editor of some magazines.

All his life Dreiser was struggling for recognition. No book of his came out with ease. The first novel “Sister Carrie” (1900) was suppressed immediately after publication.

In a ten-year interval appeared his other books: “Jennie Gerhardt” (1911), “The Financier” (1912), “The Titan” (1914), “The Genius” (1915), and “An American Tragedy” (1925). His novels “The Financier”, “The Titan”, and “The Stoic” (left unfinished) comprise the parts of the “Trilogy of Desire”.

Among the American writers of the twentieth century Dreiser is distinguished by his sharp social criticism, profound analysis and precise proof.

It is typical of Dreiser to give a detailed description of any phenomenon or character. The peculiarity of Dreiser’s narration is that the writer shows his own attitude towards things depicted, and his view-point is clearly expressed.

Dreiser was keen on watching the socialist development of the Soviet state. In 1927 he arrived in the Soviet Union. As a result of his visit appeared the story “Ernita” and the book of essays “Dreiser Looks at Russia”. Dreiser was a great friend of the Soviet Union and he actively propagated socialist ideas.



Task 1. Read and translate the text.
Task 2. Pick out new words in your vocabulary.
Task 3 Compose a sentence with as many new words as possible.
Task 4. Extend the sentence” The peculiarity of Dreiser’s narration is that the writer shows his own attitude towards things depicted”




(Here is a story of an ordinary young man, Clyde Griffiths, raised by street evangelist parents in Kansas City. Clyde goes to Lycurgus, a town in New York State, and is offered a job in his uncle’s factory. His uncle, Samuel Griffiths, is a prosperous collar manufacturer. Clyde attempts to achieve wealth and success by his charm and the standard of his uncle’s family. His affections are transferred from Roberta Alden, a stamper in his department, to Sondra Finchley, the daughter of a well-to-do business man. She becomes the key to Clyde’s ambitions. But Roberta expects a baby. Clyde is anxious to find some means of freeing himself. The American press suggests him the idea of a murder.

The title of the novel reveals the author’s appraisal of what is described in it. The principal criterion of man’s significance in bourgeois society is a cer­tain sum of money on his bank account. Success and prosperity achieved re­gardless of the cost becomes the meaning of life. Here lies the tragedy of Clyde and other common Americans.)




The effect of this so casual contact was really disrupting in more senses than one. For now in spite of his comfort in and satisfaction with Roberta, once more and in this positive and to him entrancing way, was posed the whole question of his social possibilities here. And that strangely enough by the one girl of this upper level who had most materialized and magnified for him the meaning of that upper level itself. The beautiful Sondra Finchley! Her lovely face, smart clothes, gay and superior de­meanor! If only at the time he had first encountered her he had managed to interest her. Or could now.

The fact that his relations with Roberta were what they were now was not of sufficient import or weight to offset the tempera­mental or imaginative pull of such a girl as Sondra and all that she represented. Just to think the Wimblinger Finchley Electric Sweeper Company was one of the largest manufacturing con­cerns here. Its tall walls and stacks made a part of the striking sky line across the Mohawk. And the Finchley residence in Wykeagy Avenue, near that of the Griffiths, was one of the most impressive among that distinguished row of houses which had come with the latest and most discriminating architectural taste here — Italian Renaissance — cream hued marble and Dutchess County Sandstone combined. And the Finchleys were among the most discussed of families here.

Ah, to know this perfect girl more intimately! To be looked upon by her with favor,— made, by reason of that favor, a part of that fine world to which she belonged. Was he not a Griffiths — as good looking as Gilbert Griffiths any day? And as attractive if he only had as much money — or a part of it even. To be able to dress in the Gilbert Griffiths’ fashion; to ride around in one of the handsome cars he sported! Then, you bet, a girl like this would be delighted to notice him,— mayhap, who knows, even fall in love with him. Analschar and the tray of glasses. But now, as he gloomily thought, he could only hope, hope, hope.

The devil! He would not go around to Roberta’s this evening. He would trump up some excuse — tell her in the morning that he had been called upon by his uncle or cousin to do some work. He could not and would not go, feeling as he did just now.

So much for the effect of wealth, beauty, the peculiar social state to which he most aspired, on a temperament that was as fluid and unstable as water. [...]


Task 1. Read and translate the text.

    Task 2. Pick out new words in your vocabulary.

Task 3. Summarize the text in five sentences.



[...] But now once more in Lycurgus and back in his room after just explaining to Roberta, as he had, he once more encountered on his writing desk, the identical paper containing the item con­cerning the tragedy at Pass Lake. And in spite of himself, his eye once more followed nervously and yet unwaveringly to the last word all the suggestive and provocative details. The uncom­plicated and apparently easy way in which the lost couple had first arrived at the boathouse; the commonplace and entirely unsuspicious way in which they had hired a boat and set forth for a row; the manner in which they had disappeared to the north end; and then the upturned boat, the floating oars and hats near the shore. He stood reading in the still strong evening light. Outside the windows were the dark boughs of the fir tree of which he had thought the preceding day and which now suggested all those firs and pines about the shores of Big Bittern.

But, good God! What was he thinking of anyhow? He, Clyde Griffiths! The nephew of Samuel Griffiths! What was “getting into” him? Murder! That’s what it was. This terrible item — this devil’s accident or machination that was constantly putting it before him! A most horrible crime, and one for which they electro­cuted people if they were caught. Besides, he could not murder anybody — not • Roberta, anyhow. Oh, no! Surely not after all that had been between them. And yet — this other world! — Sondra — which he was certain to lose now unless he acted in some way —

His hands shook, his eyelids twitched — then his hair at the roots tingled and over his body ran chill nervous titillations in waves. Murder! Or upsetting a boat at any rate in deep water, which of course might happen anywhere, and by accident, as at Pass Lake. And Roberta could not swim. He knew that. But she might save herself at that — scream — cling to the boat — and then — if there were any to hear — and she told afterwards! An icy perspiration now sprang to his forehead; his lips trembled and suddenly his throat felt parched and dry. To prevent a thing like that he would have to — to — but no — he was not like that. He could not do a thing like that — hit any one — a girl — Ro­berta — and when drowning or struggling. Oh, no, no — no such thing as that! Impossible.

He took his straw hat and went out, almost before any one heard him think, as he would have phrased it to himself, such horrible, terrible thoughts. He could not and would not think them from now on. He was no such person. And yet — and yet — these thoughts. The solution — if he wanted one. The way to stay here — not leave — marry Sondra — be rid of Roberta and all — all — for the price of a little courage or daring. But no!

He walked and walked — away from Lycurgus — out on a road to the southeast which passed through a poor and decidedly unfrequented rural section, and so left him alone to think — or, as he felt, not to be heard in his thinking.

Day was fading into dark. Lamps were beginning to glow in the cottages here and there. Trees in groups in fields or along the road were beginning to blur or smokily blend. And although it was warm — the air lifeless and lethargic — he walked fast, thinking, and perspiring as he did so, as though he were seeking to outwalk and outthink or divert some inner self that preferred to be still and think.

That gloomy, lonely lake up there!

That island to the south!

Who would see?

Who could hear?

That station at Gun Lodge with a bus running to it at this season of the year. (Ah, he remembered that, did he? The deuce!) A terrible thing, to remember a thing like that in connection with such a thought as this! But if he were going to think of such a thing as this at all, he had better think well — he could tell himself that — or stop thinking about it now — once and for­ever— forever. But Sondra! Roberta! If ever he were caught-— electrocuted! And yet the actual misery of his present state. The difficulty! The danger of losing Sondra. And yet, murder —

He wiped his hot and wet face, and paused and gazed at a group of trees across a field which somehow reminded him of the trees of ... well ... he didn’t like this road. It was getting too dark out here. He had better turn and go back. But that road at the south and leading to Three Mile Bay and Greys Lake — if one chose to go that way — to Sharon and the Cranston Lodge — whither he would be going afterwards if he did go that way. God! Big Bittern — the trees along there after dark would be like that — blurred and gloomy. It would have to be toward evening, of course. No one would think of trying to ... well ... in the morning, when there was so much light. Only a fool would do that. But at night, toward dusk, as it was now, or a little later. But, damn it, he would not listen to such thoughts. Yet no one would be likely to see him or Roberta either — would they — there? It would be so easy to go to a place like Big Bittern — for an alleged wedding trip — would it not — over the Fourth, say — or after the fourth or fifth, when there would be fewer people. And to register as some one else — not himself — so that he could never be traced that way. And then, again, it would be so easy to get back to Sharon and the Cranstons’ by midnight, or the morning of the next day, maybe, and then, once there, he could pretend also that he had come north on that early morning train that arrived about ten o’clock. And then ...

Confound it — why should his mind keep dwelling on this idea? Was he actually planning to do a thing like this? But he was not! He could not be! He, Clyde Griffiths, could not be serious about a thing like this. That was not possible. He could not be. Of course! It was all too impossible, too wicked, to imagine that he, Clyde Griffiths, could bring himself to execute a deed like that. And yet ...

And forthwith an uncanny feeling of wretchedness and. insuf­ficiency for so dark a crime insisted on thrusting itself forward. He decided to retrace his steps toward Lycurgus, where at least he could be among people. There are moments when in connection with the sensitively imaginative or morbidly anachronistic — the mentality assailed and the same not of any great strength and the problem con­fronting it of sufficient force and complexity — the reason not actually toppling from its throne, still totters or is warped or shaken — the mind befuddled to the extent that for the time being, at least, unreason or disorder and mistaken or erroneous counsel would appear to hold against all else. In such instances the will and the courage confronted by some great difficulty which it can neither master nor endure, appears in some to recede in precipitate flight, leaving only panic and temporary unreason in its wake.

And in this instance, the mind of Clyde might well have been compared to a small and routed army in full flight before a ma­jor one, yet at various times in its precipitate departure, pausing for a moment to meditate on some, way of escaping complete destruction and in the coincident panic of such a state, resorting to the weirdest and most haphazard of schemes of escaping from an impending and yet wholly unescapable fate. The strained and bedeviled look in his eyes at moments — the manner in which, from moment to moment and hour to hour, he went over and over his hitherto poorly balanced actions and thoughts but with no smallest door of escape anywhere. And yet again at moments the solution suggested by the item in The Times-Union again thrusting itself forward, psychogenetically, born of his own turbu­lent, eager and disappointed seeking. And hence persisting.

Indeed, it was now as though from the depths of some lower or higher world never before guessed or plumbed by him ... a region otherwhere than in life or death and peopled by creatures otherwise than himself ... there had now suddenly appeared, as the genii at the accidental rubbing of Aladdin’s lamp — as the efrit emerging as smoke from the mystic jar in the net of the fisherman — the very substance of some leering and diabolic wish or wisdom concealed in his own nature, and that now abhorrent and yet compelling, leering and yet intriguing, friendly and yet cruel, offered him a choice between an evil which threatened to destroy him (and against his deepest opposition) and a second evil which, however it might disgust or sear or terrify, still pro­vided for freedom and success and love.

Indeed the center or mentating section of his brain at this time might well have been compared to a sealed and silent hall in which alone and undisturbed, and that in spite of himself, he now sat thinking on the mystic or evil and terrifying desires or advice of some darker or primordial and unregenerate nature of his own, and without the power to drive the same forth or himself to decamp, and yet also without the courage to act upon anything.


Task 1. Read and translate the text.
Task 2. Pick out new words in your vocabulary.
Task 3. Compress the text in five sentences.

Task 4. Find the main sentence of the extract.



For now the genii of his darkest and weakest side was speak­ing. And it said: “And would you escape from the demands of Roberta that but now and unto this hour have appeared unescapable to you? Behold! I bring you a way. It is the way of the lake — Pass Lake. This item that you have read — do you think it was placed in your hands for nothing? Remember Big Bittern, the deep, blue-black water, the island to the south, the lone road to Three Mile Bay? How suitable to your needs! A rowboat or a canoe upset in such a lake and Roberta would pass forever from your life. She cannot swim! The lake — the lake — that you have seen — that I have shown you — is it not ideal for the purpose? So removed and so little frequented and yet comparatively near — but a hundred miles from here. And how easy for you and Roberta to go there — not directly but indirectly — on this purely imagi­native marriage-trip that you have already agreed to. And ail that you need do now is to change your name — and hers — or let her keep her own and you use yours. You have never permitted her to speak of you and this relationship, and she never has. You have written her but formal notes. And now if you should meet her somewhere as you have already agreed to, and without any one seeing you, you might travel with her, as in the past to Fon­da, to Big Bittern — or some point near there.”

“But there is no hotel at Big Bittern,” at once corrected Clyde. “A mere shack that entertains but few people and that not very well.”

“All the better. The less people are likely to be there.”

“But we might be seen on the train going up together. I would be identified as having been with her.”

“Were you seen at Fonda, Gloversville, Little Falls? Have you not ridden in separate cars or seats before and could you not do so now? Is it not presumably to be a secret marriage? Then why not a secret honeymoon?”

“True enough — true enough.”

“And once you have arranged for that and arrive at Big Bit­tern or some lake like it — there are so many there — how easy to row’ out on such a lake? No questions. No registry under your own name or hers. A boat rented for an hour or half-day or day. You saw the island far to the south on that lone lake. Is it not beautiful? It is well worth seeing. Why should you not go there on such a pleasure trip before marriage? Would she not be happy so to do — as weary and distressed as she is now — an outing—a rest before the ordeal of the new life? Is not that sensible — plausible? And neither of you will ever return presumably. You will both be drowned, will you not? Who is to see? A guide or  two — the man who rents you the boat — the innkeeper once, as you go. But how are they to know who you are? Or who she is? And you heard the depth of the water.”

“But I do not want to kill her. I do not want to kill her. I do not want to injure her in any way. If she will but let me go and she go her own way, I will be so glad and so happy never to see her more.”

“But she will not let you go or go her way unless you accom­pany her. And if you go yours, it will be without Sondra and all that she represents, as well as all this pleasant life here — your standing with your uncle, his friends, their cars, the dances, visits to the lodges on the lakes. And what then? A small job! Small pay! Another such period of wandering as followed that accident at Kansas City. Never another chance like this anywhere. Do you prefer that?”

“But might there not be some accident here, destroying all my dreams — my future — as there was in Kansas City?”

“An accident, to be sure — but not the same. In this instance the plan is in your hands. You can arrange it all as you will. And how easy! So many boats upsetting every summer — the occupants of them drowning, because in most cases they cannot swim. And will it ever be known whether the man who was with Roberta Alden on Big Bittern could swim? And of all deaths, drowning is the easiest — no noise — no outcry — perhaps the accidental blow of an oar — the side of a boat. And then silence! Freedom — a body that no one may ever find. Or if found and identified, will it not be easy, if you but trouble to plan, to make it appear that you were elsewhere, visiting at one of the other lakes before you decided to go to Twelfth Lake. What is wrong with it? Where is the flaw?”

“But assuming that I should upset the boat and that she should not drown, then what? Should cling to it, cry out, be saved and relate afterward that .. . But no, I cannot do that — will not do it. I will not hit her. That would be too terrible ... too vile.” “But a little blow — any little blow under such circumstances would be sufficient to confuse and complete her undoing. Sad, yes, but she has an opportunity to go her own way, has she not? And she will not, nor let you go yours. Well, then, is this so terribly unfair? And do not forget that afterwards there is Sond­ra — the beautiful — a home with her in Lycurgus — wealth, a high position such as elsewhere you may never obtain again — never — never. Love and happiness — the equal of any one here — superior even to your cousin Gilbert.”

The voice ceased temporarily, trailing off into shadow,— si­lence, dreams.

And Clyde, contemplating all that had been said, was still unconvinced. Darker fears or better impulses supplanted the coun­sel of the voice in the great hall. But presently thinking of Sondra and all that she represented, and then of Roberta, the dark per­sonality would as suddenly and swiftly return and with amplified suavity and subtlety.

“Ah, still thinking on the matter. And you have not found a way out and you will not. I have truly pointed out to you and in all helpfulness the only way — the only way — It is a long lake. And would it not be easy in rowing about to eventually find some secluded spot — some invisible nook near that south shore where the water is deep? And from there how easy to walk through the woods to Three Mile Bay and Upper Greys Lake? And from there to the Cranstons’? There is a boat from there, as you know. Pah — how cowardly — how lacking in courage to win the thing that above all things you desire — beauty — wealth — position — the solution of your every material and spiritual de­sire. And with poverty, commonplace, hard and poor work as the alternative to all this.”

“But you must choose — choose! And then act. You must! You must! You must!”

Thus the voice in parting, echoing from some remote part of the enormous chamber. [...]


Task 1. Read and translate the text.

Task 2. Pick out new words in your vocabulary.

Task 3. What is the main idea of the extract?

Task 4. Give pluses and minuses of the extract.

Task 5. Make the literary analysis of the text according to the plan or the presentation using Microsoft Power Point Presentation or Movie Maker.